We, the Friends of Astoria Heights Park, are committed to making Astoria Heights Park a beautiful, clean, safe, fun and inspiring public space for our families, friends, and all visitors to enjoy.
Astoria Heights Park serves a culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhood. Diversity is a blessing in our neighborhood and respect for diversity is a core value of our group . We aspire to work with all of our neighbors to make the Park a place where we gather to celebrate and demonstrate respect both for our common values and for our unique backgrounds and perspectives.
Our commitment to building community awareness and engagement with Astoria Heights Park began when the park was in disrepair after decades of neglect. We began by offering our neighbors increased opportunities to demonstrate their community pride and investment in making the Park a genuine community space. Pot luck picnics featuring extraordinary variety of cuisines from our diverse neighbors brought people together across cultural lines. Events enabling people to work together to clean up our park and play together to expand and strengthen our family network enabled a sense of genuine community to take hold. We created branded signage and tote bags to increase the visibility of our group and generate positive momentum for broad-based support of our Park.
Over time, our team of volunteers swelled and our constant advocacy resulted in increased involvement by local businesses, Parks Department officials, and elected officials. A massive mural art project inspired the involvement of students from surrounding schools and regular initiatives enabling people of all ages to participate in planting flowers and supporting the Park’s many trees demonstrated that the Friends of Astoria Heights Park was not waiting idly for investment from the City to make our public space shine.
By partnering with elected officials, the New York City Parks Department, local schools, not-for-profits whose expertise and purposes align with ours, and a growing group of local businesses and organizations, Friend of Astoria Heights Park eventually succeeded in attracting over $6 million to provide desperately needed structural improvements to the Park’s drainage system and a completely redesigned space with active and peaceful zones cherished by people of all ages.
>OUR PARK, TODAY<
Astoria Heights Park is located between 45th Street and 46th Street and spans approximately 2/3 of the distance between 30th Avenue and 31st Avenue. It includes basketball and (recently renovated) handball courts at its South End, a huge paved square that has accommodations for a baseball “field” and installable tennis courts inside of a paved track, and then a playground and water park (primarily for younger children) and open seating space at its North End.
Astoria Heights Park is bustling with activity, with children of all ages and adults regularly taking advantage of its amenities and space. Teenagers and adults spontaneously organize cricket, soccer, and volleyball games in the large square, and there are structured baseballs, bike riding, and tennis camps, too. On weekend mornings, a group of Asian neighborhood residents come together for Tai Chi.>OUR PARK, YESTERDAY<
The park had not been updated since the 1980s prior to the recent renovation. Astoria Heights Park had many technical issues that required attention. To name a few core issues:
The concrete in the playground was buckling, making for regular tripping hazards for everyone, especially very young children who regularly play there.
The playground area had no child-safe gates, a hazard given the speedy traffic on adjacent streets. Parents were regularly seen running to catch up with toddlers sprinting towards the exits.
The drains in and around the playground were regularly blocked and backed up.
The erosion of soil along the West side of the playground area rendered it a mound of dusty dirt. There was simply no grass there anymore and every rain storm brings a flow of dirt and mud underneath the benches and over the closeby drains. There are safety concerns with the trees here, especially those with exposed roots. This was an area that children loved to play in, but it was filthy.
Out-of-date playground equipment was placed on top of interconnected rubber pieces, which were no longer particularly soft.
The playground area needed to be designed to create safe and separate play spaces for babies and toddlers.
The playground area was abused by people who used and sold drugs there. The playground needed more police oversight to drive this activity away.
As a matter of general principle, Friends of Astoria Heights Park are highly motivated volunteers intent on making Astoria Heights Park safer, more beautiful and more fun for everybody in our community.
First, this meant tackling the core issues listed above, advocating for much-needed action to improve the safety and security of Astoria Heights Park through liaisons with local politicians, local police, and representatives of the New York City Parks Department.
Second, we understood that the only way to accomplish our goals over the long term was to build a sense of community based on dedication to the upkeep and improvement of Astoria Heights Park. Friends of Astoria Heights Park has become an influential constituency for positive change and community-building events in our neighborhood park. As the community continues to rally behind Astoria Heights Park, our efforts have proved sustainable over time. But for the Park to have a bright future, a core group of volunteers much continue to take the initiative to create opportunities for the community to come together and demonstrate their support.
The operative philosophy of Friends of Astoria Heights Park was, “if we start building it, the City will come and help us finish building it.” That happened. The challenge before the group and the community at large is to sustain a commitment to the preservation of what we worked so hard to achieve.
>OUR PARK, TOMORROW<
In time, there should be a new mural, which gives another generation of families to demonstrate their commitment to the beauty of the Park. The paved multi-lane track should be replaced with a rubberized, multi-lane track so that it is more useful to our older Park users. For Astoria Heights Park to thrive, we who use and love it must work to secure its reputation for beauty, cleanliness, fun, and safety.